(Closed) Any PhD bees leave academia?

posted 8 years ago in Career
Post # 17
1423 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: May 2009

I’m thinking of leaving, too — mostly just because of the stress and never gettng any guilt-free time off.  I’m still on the fence. 

I also have issues with the hyper-competitive market at the moment and I don’t want to move repeatedly — and my husband flat-out refuses to move more than one or two more times (he moved across the country with me when I started my program).  He also likes his job where we are now.  It would suck to make him move again and for me to hate my job and us to hate where we are living (on top of the pressures of trying to get tenure).  It would be amazing to get to live where we want to.

It will be great to hear some success stories!!

Post # 18
241 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: February 2011

So many neuroscientists! I also graduated with a (neuroscience) PhD late last year. I’m now a post-doc in a new institution, new city, doing very different techniques than I did in grad school (as most advisors encourage you to do). I’m not soured on academia, YET, but I completely understand the frustration. Like you, I had a fantastic grad school experience and had the best advisor ever. That’s probably why I still have a love for science. I’m now in a lab with another great mentor and a great social environment, so I enjoy my day-to-day. In the long-term, though, the financial disadvantage of academia is starting to bother me. I make peanuts as a postdoc when you take into account all my years of training. In research academia, you don’t have job security and a ‘reasonable’ salary until 6-8 years after getting an assistant professorship. For me (I started grad school right after undergrad) that will probably be when I’m 36-40. That’s a lot of ‘lost wages’ if you take into account non-academic jobs tend to be better-paying. As much as I love what I do, I’m becoming more receptive to other options. Especially since there is no insurance that I will get one of these highly-coveted assistant professorship spots in a research-intensive institution. 

The one piece of advice I can offer is to network. I’m sure you’ve heard it before- because it’s true. If you go to SfN, go to the alternative career symposia and networking events and introduce yourself to people. Follow up with e-mails. Go to the government agency booths (FDA, USDA) and strike up a conversation and get contacts. Find someone that has a job with a description that interests you and e-mail them and ask about their career path. Most people will find your interest flattering and will give you advice and share contacts. It’ll take time, so I suggest you start networking and contacting people now. If you wait until next year and focus on online applications, I think you’ll have a much harder time. Sending an e-mail a few months before graduation to several contacts will likely yield better results (and an online application will be just a formality.) Good luck with your search!



Post # 20
424 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

@bearlove:  I’m lucky in that faculty jobs are slightly less competitive for clinical psych than for experimental.  I love teaching and research, so I’ve accepted that I may have to adjunct and I would be okay with that.

Granted, there are also a lot of clinical psych jobs outside of academia.  I don’t absolutely love clinical work though so I’m really hoping for a faculty job somewhere.

Post # 21
8 posts
  • Wedding: June 2014

It’s really funny how many neuroscientists there are on this post!  I am ALSO a neuroscience PhD student and am 99.9% sure I want to leave academia.  I love my PI, the other students in my program, and many of the faculty members that I interact with, but the uncertainty, stress, and lack of structure of doing experiments is not for me.  If I didn’t have to do another 5+ years of this in a post doc for basically the same pay after getting my PhD, I might consider attempting the academic path.  I have tried going to workshops at my University for career stuff, but it has been somewhat depressing.  I am at an Ivy League University, but for some reason the graduate career center here is pretty useless.

My friend (a PhD student in molecular biology) and I have been doing a “career development journal club” this summer (she coined the term and calls it CDJC, which I love) and I think so far it has been really helpful.  We’ve been meeting every few weeks.  The first few were “self assessment” so we did the Meyers-Briggs test and listed things we like and dislike about lab and other positions we’ve had in and out of academia.  Then we did some strength activities to figure out what we’re good at.  Now we’re looking for careers that fit our likes and strengths.  I looked on science jobs and nature jobs.  Many of them are post docs or things like that, but you can also find a lot of “alternative” career options like science writing, education, industry jobs, etc.  Sadly, what I’ve heard is that you’re much more likely to get a job by networking than any other way, so I guess we just all need to ask our friends…


Good luck ladies!

Post # 22
82 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

As a phd student (bme) with a couple more years, I’m really interested in where this thread goes.  I’ve been concerned with how to juggle the demands of academia with the demands of being a mother, and I feel like there really aren’t very many good ways to do it all.

I’m curious if any of you bees happen to be in a two body situation.  My fi is also getting his phd, and while he definitely wants to stay in academia, I’m not so sure.  I feel like it would be impossible for the two of us if we both tried to stay.  I don’t know how we would find professorships, have children, etc, etc. I feel like we’d have no lives until we’re both in our late 30s. Thoughts? Has anyone know any success stories, especially ones involving children?

On the other hand, I’m really not sure what my phd will be useful for outside of academia since no one wants to talk about the “failures”.

@bearlove:  I think you summarized all of my concerns exactly!  I wish I could describe it as eloquently as you

Post # 25
881 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

My PhD is in Computer Science and I decided to leave academia upon graduation.  I originally thought I would love academia as I love teaching, but due to the politics of it I decided I would be much less stressed if I went to industry instead.  However, I managed to find an FFRDC (Federally Funded Research and Development Center) which I find gives me the best of both worlds.  It operates like you would expect for industry, so it isn’t as cut-throat as I found academia to be, they don’t force you to crank out publications but they are encouraged as long as the data is not sensitive or proprietary, I still get to do research which is my passion, and because it is government funded I feel it is a bit more stable/secure.  I am lucky that my specialty (data mining) is easily adaptable to numerous fields.  I interviewed with pharmaceutical companies, Google, Match.com, and now I do data analysis for the government.  My company also has a training center and employees are encouraged and paid to teach courses to fellow employees.  This way, I am still able to teach, publish, and do research without a lot of the constraints of academia or pressures to obtain tenure.  The pay and benefits are great as well since my company is fairly large and well-established.  It worked for me, I certainly hope you all find a job that you enjoy as well! 

Post # 27
881 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

@bearlove:  Good luck, I hope the job works out for you!  As far as the timeline to apply for the job, I did an internship the summer before I graduated with my current company.  They offered me a full time job in February or March the following year knowing I would graduate in May.  I started in July.  I would go ahead and apply if you see a job that would be a good fit.  Especially since obtaining your clearance can be such a lengthy process.  Perhaps they could get started on all of that early.  I hope everything works out and good luck with your defense!

Post # 28
4998 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

Just randomly went back and read this thread again. Anyone successfully leave academia yet? I have some postdoc interviews this week, because I have found that even to get an industry job I need a postdoc!! 

Post # 29
690 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: May 2013

Don’t leave ): Get a postdoc.

My husband just finsihed his Ph.D in Biology and started working in Auwerx post doc lab in January and he loves it. Plus he’s making $90,000 USD a year by just doing his post doc with a projected $175-220 in 4 years. 

It will pay off!

Post # 30
6593 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: August 2010

Happy academic PhD here, but I am in a school that respects their teaching faculty (which I am one) as much as their research faculty. (I teach anatomy in a medical school – I think the fact that anatomy is such a time extensive subject to teach makes it a subject that is a little more forward thinking than other subjects).

However, I really think the best thing to do if you are thinking about leaving is network network network. When you go to conference talk to ALL the industry booths related to your subject! There will be lots of time to network with academics but, really, you need to start talking to people in your feild outside academia.

I wish you the best of luck I know how hard it can be. I always knew I didn’t want to be a researcher, with long ridiculous hours as family is my priority. And moving forward wanting a teaching track faculty position is not an easy road to hoe either. I had to move 1400km’s from home to get this faculty position. Granted I got an assistant professorship right out of my PhD so I knew I would have to sacrifice choosing where to live if I didn’t want to do a post-doc. 

As a PhD we have options, so stick to your guns regarding what you want to do. TELL people this what you want to do and you will be surprised (most will want to help you). Talk, talk, talk to everyone about what you are looking for, the more people you meet and talk to the more options you will find!

Good Luck!

Post # 31
4150 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: November 1999

@FMM:  I second being a happy academic PhD here! 

I am definitely the odd man out on this thread, in that my PhD is in business so the market (and the work) is extremely different.  There is a severe shortage of professors in my field, so the job market is very good.  My interests have always lay more in teaching than research, and I am lucky to have found a professor position where they respect and appreciate that.  I have research goals to meet for tenure but they are not unattainable, and teaching is very important at my university.  So, their overall goals align with mine, and that makes us both happy!  I agree with PPs that you have to find a place or position that meets what you’re looking for and your interests, whatever those may be.

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